A Government advisory committee is calling for more effort in general practice to ensure that adolescents and young adults are vaccinated against meningococcal disease.
The Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) says optimum control of meningococcal capsular group C (MenC) disease can only be achieved if vaccine coverage in older adolescents and young adults is improved.
The JCVI therefore believes that general practice teams should be strongly encouraged and supported to improve coverage in those aged 18–25 years who are eligible for vaccination.
In its latest review, the JCVI says that although the UK has the most comprehensive national meningococcal vaccination programme in the world, and overall cases of the disease are low, meningococcal disease continues to have a devastating impact on children, young people and adults and their families.
There has been a very gradual rise in cases of MenC over the last few years, in part due to a larger increase in cases in the Yorkshire and Humberside region of England. Cases of MenC disease are mainly being seen in infants and older adults.
The aim of the current MenC vaccination programme is to provide direct protection to toddlers, teenagers and young adults and indirect protection to the wider population through herd immunity. Adolescents and young adults are the main carriers of the meningococcal bacteria at the back of their nose and throats, and this group is the main target of the MenACWY vaccination programme.
Vaccine coverage in younger adolescents with MenACWY through the school-based programme is high, but coverage in those older adolescents and young adults is lower, particularly among those who have not entered higher education.
In response, the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and Public Health England, have pledged to work to improve MenACWY coverage.